I’ve recently learned there are few things greater than the euphoria after crushing a run, no matter the distance. (I’m writing this as I sit basking in all of my post-run glory.) But if you told me a year and a half ago that I’d be able to run 5km on a hot, sweaty, thirty-degree Toronto morning, I would have rolled my eyes and continued sipping my gin and tonic. That’s because I was not a runner. I wasn’t athletically inclined. I wasn’t thin. I wasn’t capable.

And today, while I’m still not thin or athletically inclined and definitely still drinking gin and tonics more than I’d like to admit, I’d happily call myself a runner. To be a runner, you don’t have to be anything other than willing and determined. And if you were at Diva’s Half Marathon and 5K, you would have been surrounded by evidence of this. The women I ran with were brilliant. All ages, shapes and backgrounds running together to show off how strong and resilient women can be. To sum it up, we kicked ass.

When I first started running, I wasn’t completely sold that it was a hobby I could keep up. I’d be panting and out of breath within minutes. Every runner on the path would pass me. I didn’t look like the women in Nike ads or in running groups around the city. And besides all of that, it was really, really hard. But I kept it up and now, looking back, I’m happy I did. Running has helped me in so many other facets of my life.

I don’t turn things down anymore. I challenge myself regularly. I push through difficult tasks, despite how badly I want to give up mid-way. I’m more confident and positive. And more importantly, I feel as though I’ve broken out of the mindset that people my size “can’t” do certain things (a mindset I’ve carried with me most of my life).

I’m not ashamed to be the biggest person in a pilates class anymore. I don’t avoid the gym. I don’t back away from physical challenges. I don’t explain to people why I run and work out, because there is no explanation necessary. I wear sports bras to hot yoga and feel good about it, damn it. Most importantly, I know I couldn’t have arrived at this place if I hadn’t taken the first (hundred) steps and began running.

Though, like everyone else, I have my moments. It still feels horrible when I’m running with a group of people and am trailing behind. Or when I think I can push out a 5K and cramp up at 2K.

But I’m doing it, proving to myself that you don’t need to be the best at something to receive tremendous satisfaction from it. I’m thankful that running has become my thing, and I urge you to find yours.

Registration for next year’s Diva’s Half Marathon and 5K (taking place June 10, 2018) is open now! Register here.